Former Republican President Rupiah Bwezani Banda has been playing a careful game of Hide-And-Seek with the Zambian electorate the last year or so. Despite repeated attempts to get him to commit one way or the other, he has neither confirmed nor denied assertions that he wishes to return to active politics, Kenneth Kaunda style.
Despite his best efforts to conceal his intentions, it is pretty obvious by now that he definitely intends to stand on the Movement for Multiparty Democracy ticket and has been sending attack dogs to pave the way for him. If he was a little more sincere, he would have laid to rest any speculations by giving a comprehensive interview on TV. The last time a statement was attributed to him by The Post Newspapers suggesting that he is not interested in a come-back, he was quick to deny it through his administrative assistant.
Just as former president Dr Kenneth Kaunda did, Mr Banda is using “the people” as his basis to go for a Second Term. To paraphrase slightly the words of Dr Kaunda, Mr Banda is effectively saying “Who am I to refuse the will of the people?” Well, you are an independent minded person who cannot be forced to do something you do not agree with. You can easily be like the great statesman Nelson Mandela who refused a Second Term despite thousands of people urging him to do so.
Just like former President Frederick Chiluba’s Third Term bid was bad for Zambia’s democracy, Mr Banda’s Second Term bid is inappropriate and a disaster in waiting both for Zambia and the MMD for many reasons (some discussed by others) and I hereby outline a few of them as follows:
1. A strong opposition is necessary for good governance. The weaker the opposition, the more tyrannical a government becomes. This is why the One Party State under UNIP was so grievous and so disastrous because it made it impossible for the mistakes of government to be corrected. If Mr Banda stands on an MMD ticket, he shall trigger a vicious power struggle in MMD that shall do serious (possibly permanent) damage to Zambia’s democracy by diminishing the strength of the largest opposition party. Whoever wins, it shall be a Pyrrhic victory (According to Wikipedia, “The phrase ‘Pyrrhic victory’ is named after Greek King Pyrrhus of Epirus, whose army suffered irreplaceable casualties in defeating the Romans at Heraclea in 280 BC and Asculum in 279 BC during the Pyrrhic War”).
2. Mrs Thandiwe Banda was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and has been in South Africa on chemotherapy treatement for two months. She still has at least two months to go and her survival is not guaranteed. How can Mr Banda go around the country campaigning while his wife is seriously ill in hospital? What if she passes away while Mr Banda is on the campaign trail trading insults with younger candidates? Mr Banda nursed his first wife until her death (also to cancer) and it is just proper and humane for him to likewise be by Thandiwe’s side, not going out engaging in mud-slinging on the campaign trail.
3. Mr Banda is 77 years old. Maintaining an old president is very costly as recent events demonstrated. Having a sick wife makes things far worse. Do Zambians really want a president who shall spend half his time with medical personnel while his ministers lie with a straight face that he is chairing cabinet meetings or jogging in London? Mr Banda sought medical attention for his knee when he was president. Zambians are tired of sick old men leading us and this election shall be for under-60 candidates. It should be noted that the average age of an African president is higher than any other region in the world.
4. Mr Banda was already rejected in the 2011 elections despite conducting the most expensive election campaign in history in which sweets were printed with his face on them. MMD accelerated their decline under his divisive leadership. Despite all the millions of Dollars in donations to MMD for the campaign in 2011, the party was bankrupt when the new president Dr Nevers Mumba took over in May 2012. The party was so broke in 2012 that they had trouble paying the K400,000 bill that the then Registrar of Societies Clement Andeleki slapped on them. Where did the money in the party coffers go? This issue shall haunt the MMD as accusations of financial impropriety shall resurface against Mr Banda which shall weaken the MMD (Rumour has it that donations to the party in 2011 were paid into his personal account which will not augur well with potential voters).
5. Mr Banda’s Second Term bid will discourage young people who want to get into politics as it shall perpetuate the impression that this game is only for old men who cling onto power until death, Daniel Munkombwe style.
6. Against the Patriotic Front, Mr Banda shall be an easy target for mud-slinging and all sorts of accusations. His conduct in Barotseland shall come back to haunt him and I would be surprised if he gets even 10% of the votes there.
7. Mr Banda’s Second Term bid is very likely to unite a lot of forces against the MMD, among which are the PF, The Post Newspapers who vilified him in the last election and Mr Rajan Mahtani the Finance Bank owner who had a few run ins with Mr Banda that included Bank of Zambia taking over his bank, forcing him to resign as Bank Chairman and a court case where he and lawyer John Sangwa were taken to court and charged with uttering a false document. Rumour has it that Mr Mahtani is one of the major financiers in Zambian politics.
8. Mr Banda has not been a positive force in MMD. Rather than supporting the current MMD leadership, he has kept his distance. Part of the explanation may be the court cases he is facing (which may increase if he stands), or maybe he wants the MMD leadership to fail so that he comes and takes over. Rumour has it that he has not been financially supportive of his party which has left it very weak and is harming Zambian democracy as explained earlier.
I could go on, but these reasons are sufficient to make my point that it is a very bad idea for Mr Banda to ever seek political office again. Both the MMD and Zambia shall be the biggest losers. Whoever is advising him is telling him what his itching ears want to hear. ie that he is still very popular and he is the only one who can unseat the PF. All these are myths perpetuated by people that wish to gain through jobs and contracts if he were elected as president.
The author is just an ordinary Zambian who can be contacted at: michael (at) zambia (dot) co (dot) zm